5

Recently, we introduced a physical board to visualise work progress in one of our projects. In the first few iteration the team was very excited about it and used the board very often. We saw true commitment and team spirit.

Now, however, they just stopped using the board and move the sticky notes from time to time, when poked by the PM. They must have seen the advantages of the physical board in the first iteration and I wonder why they don't give attention anymore.

It looks to me like they just don't want to stand up and move the sticky notes.

  • 4
    What did they say when you asked them why they don't use it anymore? – jcmeloni Apr 25 '12 at 13:37
  • Maybe some were using it early, some weren't...and those that were got sick of moving notes for those that weren't? – CaffGeek Apr 25 '12 at 14:10
  • You wonder why they don't give attention anymore? Have you asked them? Perhaps more important than "how do I make them act the way I want" is "What do they need and how do I fulfill it?" – Mark C. Wallace Nov 14 '13 at 11:55
9

Updating is another accounting tasks for people, thus sometimes the attitude you describe pops up. What more, pretty often information that is on the board is duplication of data that is somewhere in this or that app.

If the answer to "What's in it for me?" for most of the team is "nothing" don't be surprised. Then it's another "beloved" system like that dreadful time tracking app many companies have.

By the way: I wouldn't assume that they had seen board's value in one iteration but didn't later. It might have been just another cool to try. Such attitude quickly wears out.

Another reason may be fear of transparency. With the board in the room everyone instantly see it when someone has little or no progress. It creates aversion to the board and not updating it is a simple way to get rid of it.

My advice what one could do would be combined of different actions (use those which sound appropriate):

  • Create opportunities for team to update the board "in the meantime." E.g. daily stand-up organized around the board is a good occasion to catch up the status of the board with whatever is happening. I know that's not a good as having the information in time, but still better.

  • Move the board to possibly convenient and accessible place. The less hassle with updating the board the better. If I have to go to another room odds are I'll decide not to and wait for another occasion.

  • Show the team that decisions concerning them are made at the board. They may not be seeing this dependency, thus see little to no value in keeping the board up to date.

  • Have a "board policeman" who frequently starts discussions on task status basing on what is on the board (even if they know it isn't up to date). This helps to build a behavior of updating the board.

  • Hold a board-related retrospective. Discuss the problem with everyone, find a root cause, address it, adjust the board accordingly. Look for value for team members (as Marcin points, +1).

  • Experiment. Tweak the board. Throw it away for a while and see whether there is any difference. Redesign it from scratch. Bring fresh air. Maybe such experiment will show you that without board you do equally well and the team doesn't need it. Maybe they will instantly ask to bring it back.

  • Ask them to keep the board updated. As simple as it may sound, openly stating what you expect may solve many problems, this one included.

  • Show where the board, or data gathered from it, helps the team. One common case that instantly comes to my mind is estimation, but of course that isn't an issue in each and every team.

  • Verify whether the board reflects the reality. If the value stream drawn on the board is different that the one you really have it will create problem and bring confusion, thus raise reluctance to do anything with the board.

  • Simplify the board. One of common mistakes is overengineering the board. Make it simpler so information is easily accessible, the board itself more useful, thus people more likely willing to use it.

  • Adjust WIP Limits if you have them or introduce them if you don't. WIP limits drive behavioral change. WIP limits influence how people work. And to keep WIP limits working you need to keep the board updated. It might be an indirect motivation to update the board regularly.

  • Bring in some fun. This one is tricky. Actually I don't care much whether the board is very nice and aesthetic or just easily readable. However if you can make using the board more entertaining, definitely go for it. It can be adding some cool avatars instead of boring magnets or adding a small celebration when the task is done (e.g. team member who finished a work item gets some sweets).

However always remember that you don't have to keep the physical board in the team at all cost. Eventually you may realize that it's not going to work and abandon it.

5

Your board probably lost its purpose...

...What do I mean by that? Well having the board is not the purpose itself. I've worked with a team like this once. We were maintaining the board perfectly at the beginning, but then it started degrading. What happened? You create the board to make something visible, to track the progress. You may even detect some problems just by using it. But the questions you need to ask yourself are:

  • Who is supposed to read the board? How often do they actually pay attention to what's there?
  • What are we looking for at the board?
  • Is the board helping the team in anything or are we just maintaining it for somebody else?

So maybe your team just does not need any of the information on the board. But find out why? Or better find out what information would they be seeking on the board in the first place? They need to find it useful and valuable for themselves otherwise why should they bother?

Were you organizing meetings by that board? If so maybe the problem is in the meetings (this was the problem in my case). It may turn out that the team does not find the meetings any helpful. Find out why? You may also find the concept from http://pawel.wrzesz.cz/blog/?p=89 interesting.

Is the team supposed to provide the same information the other way (any reports, spread sheets, etc.)? Maybe they just know that nobody looks at the board actually. Why do the fake moves if the information is read somewhere else?

Finally you may find the blog about Visual Management interesting. It may provide you some inspiration about how to make the board itself more interesting. Take a look at: http://www.xqa.com.ar/visualmanagement/

So the first thing you need to answer is what do you need the board for. It needs to provide a value to the team maintaining it. Would you maintain anything that is useless?

2

Providing information is a chore, and providing information that no-one really uses is frustrating. I guess that at first, the team may have believed that the board would make a positive difference to their work, but time has passed and .... it hasn't. It may even have made things worse.

If all you did was to introduce a board with some headings and lines drawn on it, the team will be unable to see value in using the board. Perhaps you need to show them how they benefit from the board, by changing your other processes so that you get most of your information from the board. Eliminate duplicate recording of information. Get the team to put information on the board, and encourage them to stop keeping their own progress reports / activity logs / bug reports / etc.

Make it easy to use. Get the team to redesign it. Provide different colours of sticky notes that they can use for particular purposes. Be seen to be using the information, rather than asking the team for answers all the time. Refer to it during meetings. Don't worry if it gets untidy - as long as it is meaningful. And use it yourself as a communications medium - not instead of talking to people, but to provide the hard facts to back up what you say in team meetings.

In other words, you have to make it work for the team, as well as expecting the team to make it work for you.

1

First off all, ask your team members, why did they lose interest in the board. Once you will get an honest feedback you can try to either:

  • adjust your existing board (change the place it's hanging, card size or card material, task sizes, introduce daily meetings in front of your board) or...

  • switch to an online board such as a visual management board from Kanban Tool or any other: Kanbanery, Agilezen, KanbanFlow... I'm sure that you will find a perfect match for your team.

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